Who Says Babies Don't Come with a Manual?
“Who Says Babies Don’t Come With a Manual?"
This blog is written from the perspective of the newborn baby to his/her loving parents.
Before we begin, let me start out by thanking you for being so hospitable these last nine months. I know it wasn’t always easy, but you stuck it out for me and I’m grateful. So, in return I’d like to offer you some advice on taking care of me once I’m on the outside. Please, please, please stand up for me on birth day. It’s likely you’ll be scared when you realize it’s time for me to come, but if you start stressing out your stress hormones interfere with the labor hormones that help make my entrance into the world smoother. Unfortunately, if you stress, you put the dominoes in motion for one pitfall after another! Here’s what happens...
Labor and Delivery
I finish baking and let you know-DING, “This bun’s done!” Then, you start remembering the images you’ve seen on TV and in movies where the laboring woman is screaming and chewing through a leather strap, while simultaneously punching her spouse in the face. Try to ignore those images and recognize that everything you’re feeling is normal and supposed to happen. If you stay calm, I’ll stay calm. The good hormones start flowing, labor hormones run rampant, and the body starts functioning the way it was meant to. Trust that your body was designed to make me, carry me, and deliver me. If we both stay calm it’s also much easier for us to bond once I’m here.
Try walking around during the first part of labor because movement urges natural progression. This is one of the reasons you should tell doc to hold off on the medicines. If you get pain meds, like an epidural for example, you’ll have to be laying flat or at the very least staying in bed. Hospital policy doesn’t let you move around once you have the epidural because you’ll have no feeling in your legs. So keep moving. Squat, lunge, crawl, dance, do yoga; the sky’s the limit!. Do whatever movement feels good because when you stop moving, I stop moving.
Plus, if you have to be laying flat while you’re giving birth to me it’s nearly impossible to push me out without medical intervention because you can’t push me out uphill. Think about it. You’re laying back, your legs are in stirrups and the doctors say, “push”. How in the world can you push me out from that angle? This has never made sense to me. This is one of the reasons why most women end up having an episiotomy. If you’re trying to push me out against gravity when you’re numb from an epidural (and can’t even feel where your rear end is) it’s much harder. I can’t hold off too long once I’m in the birth canal either so then the doctors jump in with their fancy tools and cut the opening wider for me to get through. They may even intervene with forceps or a vacuum (yikes!). Try a vertical position for birth and squat or get on all fours. This allows everything to open up wide and get the help of our good friend, Mr. Gravity. It’s possible you may tear a little while you’re pushing, but it’s far better to let nature tear what nature can also repair. Check with your hospital or birth center about what birthing positions are allowed.
Okay, here I come! Here’s a few last minute tips about my grand entrance. Please ask the nurses not to wipe off the gooey stuff (vernix) right away because that gooey armor protects me from harmful bacteria. Don’t worry, I’ll get a bath later after some much needed cuddle time! Second, the umbilical cord is pretty valuable! In fact, if you could ask dad not to cut it until it stops pulsing, I’ll get 50% more red blood cells than I would otherwise. It would also be in my best interest if you decided to bank my cord blood. I’ve listed some resources for that in the back. That could save me from lots of problems down the road. The nurses will probably want to do a bunch of testing, measuring, weighing, etc, but please can ask them to allow us to meet first and do that stuff later. But, you have to be the one to speak up.
I’m here! I’m so nervous, too. I mean, for 40 weeks (give or take a few) it’s been warm, dark, cushy, and secure. Too much change too fast is scary. Here’s how you can help me feel secure in my new environment:
Do me a favor and ask the staff to keep the lights dim for me. It’s been so dark in the womb that those bright hospital lights are going to stress me out! If no one will turn them down then please protect my sensitive eyes by shading them for me with your hand or a blanket.
Also, could you ask any of the loud mouths in the family to talk quietly to me? All that oohing and ahhing is fine after I get acclimated, but geez, it’s my first day! Take it easy on the auditory stimulation. Unless it’s white noise of course. That’s what I’m used to and I really like it. My favorite sounds are dryers, dishwashers, fans, and vacuums. Oh, even better, you or dad making a “shhh” noise is calming and puts me right at ease.
So, I know you feel like you stretched your body to the limit making me, but keep in mind that for me, things were pretty snug and I loved it. I liked knowing where my boundaries were on the inside and I felt contained and secure. Now that I’m out in the open world I’m overwhelmed by all this space. In fact, I hear it feels like falling when my limbs are loose! Yikes! You can help me out by wrapping me up super, super tight in a breathable cotton blanket and keep me that way all day and night for the first few months. I’ll be calm, quiet, and happy as a clam if you keep these needs met-wrap me, shush me, hold me, feed me, and love me!
Feed me, Seymore!
If you’re like most women you’ve gone back and forth debating breast milk versus formula. Well, breast milk is definitely better for me and I’ve listed some (okay 100) benefits of breast feeding in the back of this book, but, not all moms can or want to nurse. If you choose not to nurse you can buy donor breast milk from a milk bank with a doctor’s note and I’ll still reap the benefits. You could also give me regular formula, organic formula, or make your own formula at home using all natural ingredients. There’s also recipes in the back for that. I gotta tell ya, natural is better!
Here’s some tips on feeding me. When I’m being fed I may like to be swaddled tight so that I don’t startle myself with my flailing arms. But, then again, I may be one who likes skin to skin contact so I can feel your warmth and be calmed by your natural pheromones. Some of us babies like to use our hands to hold on to you and bringing our hands to our mouth is a cue we’re hungry so use your best judgement. Either way, please try to focus on me during feeding. I’m learning mealtime behaviors and healthy eating habits now and it’s important that I feel connected to you and the environment is calm during those first few early feeds. The TV is too much background noise and it’s distracting and stressful to me. Rumor has it that the American Academy of Pediatrics says TV before age 2 can cause ADHD and I’d like to avoid that if possible. While you’re feeding me look at me, hold my hands, talk to me, or sing to me. I’ll be much calmer and feed better when the environment is calm and I’m being held close.
Some moms have trouble making enough milk or getting babies to latch on even though it seems like we’d be naturals at it, right? If you have trouble, don’t hesitate to call a lactation consultant. There’s some numbers and websites in the back for that too. Until then, here are some tips. Take fenugreek and blessed thistle every day, be sure you’re getting plenty of protein (at least 65 grams or more) and water (10-12 glasses a day). Eat the same super foods you did while pregnant so I’m getting plenty of nutrients and don’t be afraid to use herbs and spices. This will help me develop a more sophisticated palate. By all means, steer clear of broccoli, garlic, and onions! Those could make me gassy, fussy, and bloated. If you need a little boost in your supply check out the recipe for “Milk’n Cookies” in the back of this book and eat the dough for added benefit.
It’s time to bring me home! Knowing you guys, the car seat is already in the backseat, rear facing, and strapped in according to the manufacturer’s instructions, so I’m SO excited. Do me a favor and talk me through things. I love hearing your voice! Getting a personal tour is a great way to help me get acclimated to my new environment. Don’t think just because I can’t understand your words it’s not necessary to talk me through things. I understand feelings when I’m being spoken to and I’ll understand that you’re welcoming me home.
Now that I’m home you may be thinking, “Now what?” Don’t worry, that’s totally normal. Having a tiny, helpless life entirely dependent on you can be overwhelming and I totally get it. But, guess what? The good news is I was born with survival instincts and a set of cues to help my caregivers know what I need. For example, when I turn my face to you and start making an ‘o’ shape with my mouth or smacking my lips I’m probably hungry. If I’m unswaddled and I bring my hands to my mouth that’s also my way of saying, “feed me”. It’s better to feed me based on my subtle cues rather than wait ‘til I’m starving and screaming. Especially if you’re nursing me because I’ll feed much better when I’m calm and you’re calm. Most of us (babies, I mean) feed every 2 to 3 hours, but you’ll have to watch my cues to figure out what works best for me. Look for patterns in my usual routine and help guide me into a consistent schedule.
Whew wee, it’s hot in here! What’s the temp on, folks? Just because I liked baking on the inside doesn’t mean I need it hot on the outside. I’m dressed head to toe and swaddled so you can keep the temp around 68-72 degrees and I’ll be just fine. In about 6 months I’ll be able to regulate my own body temperature, but until then remember that I can get a heat rash if my skin gets too hot and I’m at risk for SIDS if my body is overheated.
Snoozin’ or Losin’
I know many new parents worry about getting enough sleep, but don’t worry. Newborns sleep about 15-18 hours a day so if you make a habit of sleeping when I’m sleeping you should be fine. Most of the time I’ll sleep without any help from you if I’m swaddled tight, the lights are low, and there’s some nice white noise in the background, but occasionally I need a little rocking, tiny jiggle, or gentle swaying to help me mellow out and get into my REM zone. Please let me sleep when I want to sleep. If you try to keep me awake during the day in hopes of getting me to sleep longer at night you’ll be sorry. The more tired I am, the harder it is for me to get to sleep. I know it seems counterproductive, but let me sleep as much as I want and fall into my own natural pattern. I’ll get to know my days and nights eventually. In the meantime, you can help me learn the difference between day and night by allowing natural light into the house during the day and taking me outside or on walks often. At night, when you have to change me or feed me, use a red light or a warm, low light and make nighttime “business time”. Come in, do what you need to do, and get out. I love being cuddled and talked to, but that’s also too much stimulation at night. I’ll wake up and want to play and it will be much harder to get me back to sleep.
Also, I’m new at sleeping on the outside (of the womb) and I have to learn how to connect my sleep cycles. Sometimes I may wake up and grunt or let out a wail, but don’t jump out of bed just yet. I may just need some time to get into my next sleep cycle so just wait it out a bit. If I start crying for longer than a few minutes, come help me. If you immediately leap to my bed and pick me up to cuddle me, you may actually be conditioning me to wake up and want to see you.
Who you callin’ spoiled?
While we’re on the topic of “conditioning me” to need you, let’s discuss this ridiculous idea of “spoiling a baby.” I think it’s simply ludicrous to think you can spoil a newborn with too much love, affection, holding, and responding to cues. I mean, look at me. Does it look like I’m ready to be independent? I’m used to being carried close to my mom for a full nine months and I’m much happier when I’m being held. When you respond to my needs right away you’re teaching me I’m loved, I’m understood, and I’m safe. If I’m putting my needs out there and no one’s responding I’m gonna get a lil’ freaked out, know what I’m sayin’? You may be worried I’ll turn out to be one of those needy, clingy rugrats you’ve seen at the park but, ironically, the more my needs are met, the less needy I am.
Let’s talk about play, baby! For the first few months, there’s already a lot of stimulation happening in the world around me so sometimes just letting me lay in a bouncy seat or on a mat looking around can be enough. No need to talk to me every waking moment. Sometimes, it’s nice for you and me to just sit and observe and take it all in. I’m learning to process information in my mind, but I have to be given time to do that. I’ll let you know if I’m stressed or overstimulated by hiccuping, yawning, looking away, or even putting my hands up signaling “stop!”. When my fingers and toes are splayed, I’m stressed out so pull back from what you’re doing and help comfort me.
As I start having more awake time and can handle a little more stimulation, sing to me, make faces at me, show me pictures and objects with contrasting colors and shapes. I also like to touch things so introduce me to new textures using stuff you find around the house like ribbon, yarn, foil, pipe cleaners, cotton, and fabrics. If you’re interested in increasing my language development and attention span you could read me stories. Don’t be afraid to read me long stories either; I love listening to your voice and learning your speech patterns.
Now that babies don’t get to sleep on our tummies anymore it’s important you let us have some tummy time when we’re awake to help us build our upper body strength and develop head control. At first, I like laying on my caregivers at an incline. As I get stronger, you can lay me on a wedge, a Boppy, or flat on the floor. If I get a little frustrated, that’s okay. I’ll figure out how to turn my head and move my arms and legs to get comfortable. Never leave me on my tummy alone though until you’re 100% confident I’m strong enough to turn my head. If I fall asleep while on my tummy just stay with me and watch me to be sure I’m safe. When I’m awake on my tummy, you can keep things interesting by putting an infant mirror on the floor, some rattles or soft blocks to reach for, or even a few textured pieces of fabric. I need about 30 minutes a day of this at least, but you’ll have to slowly work me up to that, by trying a few minutes at a time through the day and reading my cues. If I’m upset please pick me up or turn me over and help me get calm again.
Oh, and PS: a still, firm touch is MUCH more soothing than rubbing or patting!
Awe, man! Growing up with you is going to be so much fun! In no time I’ll be sitting up, eating solid foods, talking, and walking, but until then remember this:
You are my caregiver. You know what I need. All it takes to care for me is love and reading my cues. Trust your instincts because they’re really strong. Good luck, love you!
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